Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Turkey vultures

Out of habit, whenever I leave or arrive at my apartment I always glance up at the big dead tree across the road to see if any birds are sitting up there. In the spring and early summer of last year, I'd  quite often look and immediately do a double take, as Turkey Vultures were perching there with surprising frequency. These particular photos were taken on an April evening, just after I'd gotten home. The sun was in front of me, so I didn't get a lot of detail in these shots, but I thought the silhouetted results were still pretty cool.

A closer look at the vulture in what I'd call a classic vulture pose. Interesting thing about North American vultures: they don't have nasal septums, so you can see right through their nostrils. In addition to enhancing the vulture's sense of smell, this biological quirk makes sense from a practical standpoint as well—when you're sticking your face deep into a carcass, the last thing you need is rotting meat stuck in your nose. Turkey Vultures have the largest nostrils of the three, and even from as far away as I was, you can see the light through those perforated nostrils on the bridge of its nose:

Fluffing out the feathers a bit:

A slightly different angle on the bird, as well as a change of light as the sun came out a bit—as you can see, the Vulture is keeping an eye on me as well:

As I photographed the one bird, another one swooped by:

A lucky catch of the sunlight reflecting off the wings of the airborne bird:

The two Vultures posing together:

Another interesting thing about Vultures—because most breeds lack a syrinx (the avian version of our larynx), the only sounds they can make are hisses and grunts. So I had no idea the bird on the right had its beak open until I was looking at these images later:

A look at the second bird just after it took off again:

And finally, the sequence of photos I took when the original Vulture decided it was time to depart for the day:

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